It was actually a few steps back when I caught my first glimpse of the Treasury at Petra. After walking through a narrow canyon formed by rock the colors of deep mustard, rust, and blazing orange for a mile or so, the first bit of the Treasury that can be seen is part of the top. A few steps further and the perspective above comes into view, an image that has been photographed a zillion times over - one of the most iconic images of a city a group of Arabian nomads called the Nabataeans built around the first century B.C. I had dreamed of this moment for years - tried to imagine what it would be like to stand in front of this structure built into the walls of a canyon and then explore all the other details of an area that goes on as far as the eye can see. We only had about a day and half to soak in a place that really needs a week or more, but I'm not complaining. It was this moment - the moment when I took the photo above - that was my reward, a moment that did not disappoint.
I am back home now, still not entirely over jet lag, a husband home sick, groceries to buy, work to do, deeply troubling family issues still to resolve. In other words, that moment is past now and I have slowly wound my way back into the day-to-day of my life in Santa Monica. But my day-to-day now has this new piece, this new detail; like the bracelet I purchased in the nook of an antique shop in Amman, it is here with me now, adding an entirely new dimension to the background of my days. I rode two airplanes, a van and a horse to get to that spot, and then I made my way back home, and even though all the dust from Petra has been washed out of my hair, the memory is lodged in my consciousness permanently, guiding me to my next ideas, dreams and challenges.
While it would be over-dramatic to say that moment changed my life (or maybe it did - it is likely too early to tell), it did lock another puzzle piece into place. To be perfectly honest, I feel like my bank account of Dreams Come True is bursting at the seams already, but I still somehow manage to forget the immense power of these moments. I have written much about the smaller moments, the moments that look ordinary and worn out, perhaps sometimes trying to deflect too much attention away from these grander instances when I am standing smack in the middle of a longed for experience. At the same time, I have also made it my mission to encourage the world to pursue their dreams and create a meaningful life; I built a business around the idea, and I continue to cheer people on as much as I possibly can. But have I written enough about these moments? About the exact instance I looked up - not expecting to see the Treasury just yet - and saw it peek through the canyon? The moment it came into view and I immediately looked away, tears in my eyes and heart pounding, wanting so badly to stop the clock and squeeze every bit of emotion I could out of that millisecond of time in the history of my life.
All I could think as I walked towards the opening in the canyon to stand in full view of the Treasury was, "I am here...I am here," not quite believing I had managed to get myself to a Middle Eastern country surrounded my all kinds of tension and chaos, to this place that was once a thriving metropolis so long ago as to be unfathomable. It is not like the high of a drug - an experience that becomes a craving, something that I live for in blindness to all beauty in my everyday life - it is more a reminder of the expansiveness of possibility in the world: What is possible? Anything! On the same note, it provides a bittersweet recognition of how strange the story of a life sometimes is...how it can be easier to travel 7000 miles away to one of the most dangerous regions of the world and return home safely than to open one single door of communication between myself and a member of my family. How I felt more seen and understood by people I had never met before this trip than someone I have known my entire life.
It is dichotomies like those that I love exploring. I cannot help but turn the bright side of a coin over to its darker face, wanting to understand every possible facet of meaning in these moments. Because to only expose myself to one or the other, I lose the opportunity to fully understand and embrace all that I am given. And it is not about wanting to downplay the magnificence of the moment of realizing a dream - it is not about wanting to hang a dark cloud over it or smother its voice - it is about seeing all the feelings and thoughts it inspires, and instead of judging them as good, bad, happy or sad, I simply sit with all of them, knowing they all have their place in yet another extraordinary story in the journey of my life.
[The first photos from Petra are here.]